A New Home – Is it the Right Choice for You?

This is an interesting topic for me, because believe it or not, I have never lived in a ‘second hand’ home. I know growing up, it wasn’t by my choice that the homes were always new, but even as an adult, I don’t think I ever thought –’It must be new’ – it just happened that way.

I am likely an example of the hard to please buyer. I want it done exactly my way, with no exception. The size of rooms, the layout, the colour of brick, the type of flooring, finishing styles… These are all part of the new home buying process and something I like to have control of.

Buying a brand new home can be an exciting process. From picking the area you want to live, to touring model homes to see the quality of the different builders, to finding what you can afford. And this is before you even decide what style of home you want! Once you have done your basic homework, the fun starts. You have a blank slate on which to build your ideal home. Just keep in mind, all those nice to have ideas come with a price tag – sometimes far more than you might expect (or be willing to pay, for that matter). Once you have made all your choices, the wait begins. A new home can take more that 4 months to build, all the while you are anxiously watching the progress, or sometimes lack of progress, when weather or other unforeseen events slow down your new home.

Once it is finally done, your moving day has come. Hopefully all your careful planning has created a home in which all your belongings will fit, especially items like the king size bed, or the grand piano…

If your luck is like mine, moving day will be after a few good rain storms, so your front walk, (if you can call those pieces of wood on mud a walk) is a sea of mud, with you slipping and sliding your way in with multiple boxes of treasures.

Be prepared – when you finally move in, not everything will be finished! At least that has been my experience. We moved in once with no sinks in the bathrooms – brushing your teeth in the bathtub is a memorable experience. Or, once they didn’t have the gas turned on – fortunately it was fall weather… cool, but not freezing.

Once you are in, there will be the outdoor landscaping to take care of. Not very often does any more than a bit of front grass get laid before moving day, and not always that. You need to budget to spend a few dollars putting in front walks and driveways. Be sure to wait a season to let the ground settle before spending dollars on fancy walks and driveways. You don’t want to be redoing paved driveways!

Buying a new home is not for everyone. If you need to see the finished product before you can decide if it will work, a new home is not for you. If you like established neighbourhoods with lots of trees and amenities, likely a new home is not for you.

My number one suggestion if you are thinking of buying a new home is to have a really good look at the homes the builder you are thinking of using has built. The trades people who build the next home may not be the same ones as built the homes you are looking at, but the final product is a result of how good the builder is at selecting trades people, and also how closely the builder monitors the quality of work being completed. A good builder will try to ensure consistent quality.

Just as an aside, I am starting the search for a new home shortly, and believe it or not, I am not looking for a brand new home! Although, I am looking for one to renovate… just never satisfied with what I see I guess…

What to do about downsizing???

Over the past 18 years I have talked to many people about downsizing their home. What I found was this was an extremely emotional decision for many people and they needed special care and counseling as they realized they were moving into the next stage of their lives. After all we could be talking about the house where they raised their children or maybe they need to downsize for economic reasons. These can be very trying times for many people.

I have learned over the years there are many different reasons for downsizing and each reason needs to be dealt with on an individual basis and not always does the homeowner have to make a change. For example, a senior couple who would prefer to stay in their current home, but finding it very difficult to keep up with the maintenance, I might suggest they hire the necessary service providers to take care of the maintenance issues provided they have the financial ability. Or maybe one of the spouses loses their job and in a panic they feel they need to sell and buy a smaller home. After analyzing the situation it could be just a matter of re-amortizing their current mortgage and it now becomes very manageable with just the one income.

Last week Ann talked about condo living. This is a choice for many people wishing to downsize as it provides the freedom they are looking for – no maintenance – when travelling they just lock the door and know everything is taken care of – and usually not enough room for the kids to move back in!!

Many people have told me that after they downsized they appreciated having that equity they had built over the years to do special things like help their children buy their first home, travel, or help the grand children with their education.

Whatever your reason for downsizing is, make sure you do your homework and get the proper help you need to make the right

Is Condo Living Right for You?

Deciding to live in a condominium is not just a decision on type of ownership, it is a lifestyle choice.

When you are ready to buy your next home (or first home for that matter) one of the many choices you will make is whether to live in a condominium or a freehold. Both of these choices offer many amenities, you just need to determine which is the best fit for your lifestyle.

A condominium offers a low maintenance choice. You pay a monthly fee to have all or some of your outside maintenance taken care of, the building maintained and the maintenance of the shared use areas, such as gardens, swimming pools, games rooms and more. Some condominiums also include utility expenses in the monthly fee. This can be the ideal choice for people who love to travel and want to feel they can just close the door and not worry while they are away. Condominiums are also great for active people who want to participate in activities, such as tennis, lawn bowling, swimming, bridge and more, as many of the newer condominiums have been built with this active owner in mind. They truly are communities of individuals with shared interests. There are condominiums built in all price ranges and styles, townhouses, apartments, detached homes and more. If you are looking for this type of lifestyle, there no doubt is a condominium that will provide all you are looking for.

Freehold living offers a different range of amenities. Freeholds can also be townhouses, semi-detached, row houses, detached and more. With a freehold, the owner is responsible for the maintenance of the home and property, upkeep and repair. As the owner, you can do what you like with the house and property (within the limits of the local bylaws), such as build fences and decks, put in a pool, build on an addition, or change the look of the exterior however you wish. Freehold living is not quite so easy to just close the door and leave. If you want to go away, you must be sure the grass is being cut or the snow being shoveled.

I have lived in both condominiums and in freehold homes. Each suited my lifestyle at the particular time in my life. There is no better choice – just the right choice at the time.

The Hamilton and area real estate market has a wide variety of condominium and freehold choices. When you are in the initial stages of buying, be sure to review all your options. The right property is out there, you just have to work with your sales rep to focus on what you want, and get everything in order so when you find it, you are ready to make the offer!

Urban / Suburban

Back in December Ann talked about the virtues of living in the suburbs and she said to check back as I would be saying she is shortsighted. Well I won’t go that far, but there are many things that people don’t realize city living has to offer.

 Let’s start with the close proximity to everything. I live in the Gage Park area and have been here for about 21 years. I am basically located in the middle of the city and can travel to all ends in a matter of minutes. Including highway access! Many areas of interest are within walking distance or a short bicycle ride, such as Gage Park, the downtown core (home to many fine restaurants, entertainment, and don’t forget the Hamilton Farmers Market), all the great shops on Locke and Ottawa Streets, and of course our bay front park with all its walking trails and shady spots to sit and read a book on a warm sunny afternoon.

 For those who don’t drive all the locations mentioned are accessible by public transit. Try getting from the suburbs to downtown in a reasonable length of time. It’s not going to happen.

 One thing I’ve found about living in the city is the neighbourhood pride. All my neighbours are very friendly and we all look out for each other. The younger folks on my street are always there to help out some of the older folks with snow shoveling and grass cutting. I know people who live in the suburbs in newer surveys and don’t even know who their next door neighbour is after 4 or 5 years.

 I grew up in a small town and I still get that small town feeling from my neighbourhood. I still get that small town feeling when I walk down Ottawa Street or go to their Farmer’s Market, when I stroll down Locke St. or go for a quiet walk in Bayfront or Gage Park.

 I have mentioned but a few locales in the city, but to all you folks in the suburbs, I challenge you to take the time to explore what urban Hamilton has to offer. You may be pleasantly surprised!!